In 2017, Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods Presented
The 34th Annual Smith Nature Symposium Garden Party and Keynote Address

The Nature Fix:
Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, And More Creative

with Florence Williams

Saturday, May 20, 2017

An intrepid investigation into nature’s restorative benefits by a prize-winning author.

For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams sets out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain.

From forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to groves of eucalyptus in California, Williams investigates the science at the confluence of environment, mood, health, and creativity. Delving into completely new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and ultimately strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas—and the answers they yield—are more urgent than ever.

In her keynote address, Florence Williams presented material from her new book, The Nature Fix, about the science behind why access to nature and green space is essential for human health. Partly drawing from assignments for National Geographic and Outside magazines, she explored how different countries are medicalizing nature and why everyone from schoolchildren to veterans of war to the urban poor can benefit. Attendees heard elegant stories of lives being changed, health being restored, and the conquering of debilitating mental health disorders through mindfulness in nature.

Read more about Florence Williams here. Click here for past speakers and topics.

2017 Brushwood Center Award for Distinguished Leadership in the World of Nature

Deborah Lahey
President and Chief Executive Officer, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Each year Brushwood Center recognizes an outstanding leader in the area of conservation to honor during the Smith Nature Symposium. The 2017 honor went to Deborah Lahey for her extensive work as President and CEO of the Chicago Academy of Sciences and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, as well as her involvement and dedication serving on numerous boards and committees. Since 2010, Deb’s leadership has reshaped the Nature Museum, setting attendance records and introducing art exhibitions. During her tenure she has overseen the Museum’s successful efforts to restore endangered and threatened butterflies, Blanding’s turtles, and snake species. Deb is responsible for the Chicago Academy of Sciences’ 160-year-old collection—a definitive gathering of local natural history—ensuring its accessibility to researchers and museum guests. Notably, Deb’s passion for developing environmental education and hands-on learning for children has provided more hours of hands-on science learning for students than any other museum in Chicago.

New Year - New Smith

Attendees at the 2017 Symposium enjoyed a new format with live music by the Carl Noble Trio and a more casual farm-to-table menu in Brushwood Center’s award-winning native garden. They chatted with friends as they drank in the beauty of the sun setting over Ryerson Woods, and explored the Brushwood home and the gallery exhibition of photographs by Carol Freeman. The Smith Nature Symposium is an annual benefit for Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, and is an occasion to celebrate and spend the evening with luminaries who have made a meaningful contribution to the science of conservation and deepened our understanding of the natural world. We hope you were able to join us for this landmark year!

… and, as a special treat – we were joined by Art Norman of WMAQ-Channel 5's news as the evening’s emcee!

Presented by:

In Partnership with: